eSports: Competitive, coordinated, and strategic true sports
When video games became popular in the 1970s, games like Pong and Atari swept the nation by storm. Players everywhere gathered at local arcades to compete on consoles the size of refrigerators that could do little more than render a cluster of bouncing pixels. Since then, video games have come a long way: Computers have become faster, game developers have gotten more creative, and consumers have demanded higher quality options. In 2020, video game revenue netted 179.7 billion dollars, more than the global film and North American sports industries combined.
While video games were traditionally marketed towards children, they are now a market-dominating force with an extremely competitive e-sport scene. Although many argue that eSports should not be considered real sports, this belief is being proven wrong as the industry develops. One of the most common arguments against eSports is that they do not require any physical prowess to compete, but this fails to acknowledge the seemingly inconceivable reaction times and fast-twitch muscle movement that takes years of practice to develop.
Strategic play is another component of eSports that is often dismissed. Team planning, evasive maneuvering, and advanced meta-analysis are put to the test throughout the gaming world. Games like League of Legends, Valorant, Dota 2, and Overwatch have all fostered competition that has filled arenas throughout the world.
With the skill and determination required to succeed in eSports, it is hard to deny that it is a real sport. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the market share for competitive video games has only risen and is expected to continue rising to match that of the world of “real” sports.
eSports are a skill, but not a sport
Video games do not usually come to mind when one thinks of daily exercises. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines a sport as a physical activity engaged in for pleasure. While playing a video game requires skill and some coordination, it does not incorporate enough physical aspects to be a sport.
Although there is strategy involved in video games, board games like chess or card games like Solitaire also require strategy, but are not comparable to sports. And although, like sports, gamers can improve their skills with training, playing an instrument also requires practice and training, which still does not make it a sport.
Sports require full-body movements and coordination, not just finger and hand movements. And while it is possible to move your whole body while playing a video game, it is not usually required to be successful. It is completely possible—and common—for people playing eSports to sit in front of their TV or computer with a bag of chips and move the controller with one hand while snacking with the other. In this way, not only is there no physicality involved, but playing video games often is also unhealthy, whereas sports are proven to improve health and well-being. eSports and other forms of competitive gaming takes a toll on the mind and the body, but in a different way than regular sports. Playing sports competitively or recreationally can leave the whole body tired and help build muscle and lose fat. After playing sports, one’s mood is boosted, and the mind is clearer. eSports simply do not give these results.
Playing video games for hours on end gives the body nothing but headaches, grogginess, and irritation. eSports are competitive similar to the way that chess is competitive: It does not require physical exertion, and does not provide health benefits in the way that physical sports do. eSports could be considered an art form like playing the violin or a game like checkers, but not as a sport.
Ultimately, when considering the inherent physical nature of most sports, eSports cannot confidently be categorized the same way. While it remains true that video games and competitive gaming require high levels of skill and critical thinking, their lack of exertion rules eSports out as a sport.